University rankings by subject show Ireland breaking into top 50 in the world

27 Feb 2019

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The QS World University Rankings by Subject are out, with some Irish universities managing to break into the top 50 in the world.

Whether you love them or hate them, university rankings released each year by various organisations have significant influence on an institution’s public image. Now, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) has released its World University Rankings by Subject for 2019 accounting for more than 1,200 universities.

Unlike the overall university rankings, these focus on 48 different subjects in curriculums across the globe, and this year’s rankings reveal some positives and negatives for a number of Irish universities. The highest-ranked subject from an Irish perspective was achieved by Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in the area of classics and ancient history, coming in 13th place in the world.

Other high-ranking subjects from TCD included English language and literature (28th), mineral and mining engineering (39th), nursing (41st), performing arts (42nd), as well as pharmacy and pharmacology (50th).

Otherwise, the university found itself in the top 100 in 14 other subjects including materials science and medicine as well as computer science and information systems.

Not all good news

University College Dublin (UCD) achieved a higher number of subjects in the latest rankings, totalling 39. The highest-ranked subject was veterinary science in 26th place, followed by library and information management (38th), nursing (44th), English language and literature (49th), mineral and mining engineering (50th) and sports-related subjects (50th).

The results overall, however, are somewhat negative, as despite Irish institutions seeing a doubling of the number of subjects to enter the top 50, 26 subjects experienced a drop. This is compared with only 22 that saw an improvement.

Responding to the rankings, the Irish Universities Association director general, Jim Miley, said: “It’s very welcome that the outstanding quality of teaching in our universities is being recognised in these latest QS rankings.

“But, we need to be mindful that we can only maintain or improve such quality if we have the required level of sustained investment in the system as recommended three years ago by the Cassells report.”

The report called for €600m in additional funding each year to cover costs over a period of five years, expanded to €1bn by 2030. However, the overall rankings released by QS last year showed that no Irish university made the top 100, something Miley described at the time as “disappointing but not a surprise”.

Updated, 5.06pm, 28 February 2019: This article was updated to amend figures and clarify that TCD placed 13th in the area of classics and ancient history, not 12th; and that it had 20 subjects in the top 100, not 34.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic